Updated: Jun 1
This decision could postpone a resolution for the blind for a few more years.
By Annette M. Lesure, Staff Writer
Payan v. LACCD will return to the United States District Court of Central California after the Board of Trustees and plaintiffs failed to come to an agreement in a mediation that lasted 77 days.
After more than five years of battling, the LACCD did not agree to resolve the issues highlighted by blind students Roy Payan and Portia Mayson's lawsuit claiming “denial of equal communication,” “disparate treatment” and “denial of accommodation.” The decision to return to the district court will create excessive legal fees for both parties and could delay a resolution for blind students to have accessibility to braille books and equipment.
“I am very, very disappointed to hear that the parties were not able to reach a settlement agreement,” said Paul Grossman, executive councilperson for the Association on Higher Education and Disability. “Now I fear that there will be more costly litigation with money being devoted to combat instead of compliance.”
An initial error in the categorizing of charges by the district court judge in 2017 allowed LACCD the option to petition both the U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. The district opted out of filing the writ to the U.S. Supreme Court on March 2 and has now decided against settling, which would require them to provide necessary materials and accommodations for the blind.
“This is heartbreaking and demoralizing. They rejected all our demands; they aren’t giving in to anything,” said plaintiff Roy Payan. “My message to students with disabilities and their families is: We can’t stop; we have to keep moving on. I’ll continue this fight as long as I can, but I’m not going to give up on this. I just need the support of the community, and I need the support of all the people with disabilities to say, ‘we’re going to make a change,’ and that’s it.”
Payan, who started his journey at Los Angeles City College — where these incidents took place — is now at USC pursuing his master’s degree in public policy with the goal of making a difference for students with disabilities.
“I will keep going for as long as it takes until this is resolved," said child development major Portia Mayson. "I don’t want the next person that comes in line after me to have to go through the same challenges that I have been facing for these last few years. We have a lot of blind students that are afraid to speak out because they’re afraid they’re going to get into trouble, so if I have to do it, I will do it.”
Mason, who only needs two classes to finish her certificate in early child development, said that she feels nervous about registering for the fall semester and is afraid she will not be provided a textbook in a timely manner and will have to drop the class again.
LACCD Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez was not available for comment.